What If I Don't Know How To Pray?

-The Rev. Dr. Katherine M. Lehman


Pray the The Lord's Prayer. In this short prayer Jesus helped the disciples learn that prayer was first of all coming into God's presence. This is where all prayer must begin. The prayer then became asking for their daily sustenance, pleading for their own forgiveness and for the courage to forgive others, and requesting God to keep them from all that would undermine their movement toward union with God. Sometimes it is helpful to have prayers like The Lord's Prayer that you can carry with you in your heart.

We are all beginners at prayer and when we recognize this, we are able to pray well. In its most basic of forms, prayer is simply talking. It is spilling out the contents of your heart to the One who loved that heart into existence. Prayer does not need to be a refined and grammatically correct set of phrases that follow established policies and procedures! Prayer is as varied as each person's personality.

There are times when you will find that prayer arises unbidden from within. Perhaps someone you love is in need, perhaps your life feels overwhelming, perhaps you have inner questions that are disturbing your peace, or perhaps you feel lonely or afraid. Words and even tears rise up within you seeking release. The words flow and you pour out what is inside until you are empty and quiet. A disciple once asked one of the desert fathers how to pray. His answer is refreshing. "There is no need to speak much in prayer; often stretch out your hands and say, 'Lord, as you will and as you know, have mercy on me.' But, if there is war in your soul, add, 'Help me!' and because God knows what we need, he shows mercy on us."

Prayer is not a science that must be mastered in order to be effective. Prayer at its essence is re-claiming your right to attend to your inner life.It's collecting the pieces of life and bringing them to the One who alone can bring your soul back into balance. All prayer arises out of silence. If you want to know how to pray, step into silence. God is present there, and your heart will pray and God will speak. Here is a simple exercise that may help.

Sit down and become aware of your breath.

As you breathe slowly, allow your busy mind to become centered by allowing it to descend into the quietness of your heart.

Let your heart speak whatever it needs to say.

Listen for the word of God that may come audibly, or as an insight, or as a feeling of peace or clarity.

After a few minutes, thank God for the time that you have spent together and slowly return to an awareness of your breath.

-The Rev. Canon Renée Miller

This article originally appeared at Explore Faith and is reprinted with permission.


Katherine Lehman is rector of St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Menlo Park, California.

Renée Miller is a writer, conference leader, and Episcopal priest who has served parishes and dioceses in both the southern and western United States.

10/4/2010 4:00:00 AM
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